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educator, literary and cultural critic, and leading scholar in African and African American studies, was born Louis Smith Gates in Keyser, West Virginia. Gates, nicknamed “Skip” by his mother at birth, grew up in nearby Piedmont, the son of Henry Louis Gates Sr., a mill worker and janitor, and Pauline Coleman Gates, a homemaker and seamstress. Born four years before the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education and encouraged by his parents, he excelled in Piedmont's integrated schools, including the Davis Free School and Piedmont High School, as did his older brother Paul, known as “Rocky,” who would become Chief of Oral Surgery at Bronx Lebanon Hospital.

At age fourteen Gates experienced two cataclysmic events in his young life the first a misdiagnosed slipped epithesis a hip injury that led to three surgeries in a year and the second his joining the Episcopal ...

Article

Richard Newman

As a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine and a frequent public speaker, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., emerged as a national spokesperson on racial issues in the mid-1990s. He attempted to refocus the nation's public policy debate by emphasizing that both the black middle class and the black underclass had grown considerably since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. As he stated on “The Two Nations of Black America,” the program he wrote and hosted for Frontline (WGBH-TV, 1998), “The class divide within our community is black America's most urgent social problem.”

Gates was born in Keyser, West Virginia, the son of Pauline Coleman and Henry Louis Gates, Sr. He grew up in Piedmont a small town of about 2 000 people 10 percent of whom were black Gates s father worked as a laborer in the local paper mill and as a ...

Article

Kenneth W. Warren

Arguably the most influential black literary scholar of the 1980s, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who earned his PhD at Cambridge University, has been the recipient of a MacArthur Prize Fellowship and the American Book Award. In his early textual scholarship, Gates achieved prominence by establishing Harriet E. Wilson's Our Nig, or Sketches from the Life of a Free Black (1859) as the first novel published in the United States by an African American. At the same time, Gates, along with such other scholars as Robert Stepto and Dexter Fisher, who together coedited Afro-American Literature: The Reconstruction of Instruction (1979), were laying the groundwork for a critical approach to African American literature that sought to focus on its literariness, breaking with, as Gates argued, the social realist preoccupation of critics of previous generations.

Central to Gates s establishment of this intended break was first ...

Article

OluwaTosin Adegbola

critic, writer, educator, documentarian, and commentator. Told by a doctor when he was fourteen years old that his problem was that he was an overachiever, because he was a black boy who wanted to be doctor, Gates has spent a good deal of his lifework trying to dispel doubts about the intellectual capacities of African Americans. He has accomplished this by earning high scholarly achievements and becoming a strong voice for a multicultural approach to education.

Born and raised in West Virginia, Gates graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor's degree in history from Yale University, then attended Clare College, Cambridge, in England on fellowships. There he was mentored by Wole Soyinka a Nigerian playwright and later a Nobel laureate who convinced Gates to study especially African American literature and its lineage from and similarities to the literary traditions of Africa and the Caribbean ...

Article

Amani Morrison

to Jessie Rowell, a gardener and storyteller, and Hosea Rowell, a farmer two generations removed from slavery. At an early age Rowell identified with his mother’s spirit of freedom and love of beauty as opposed to his father’s desire for land ownership and material gain.

Rowell lived and was educated in the segregated schools of Alabama before earning his degree in English from Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College, also segregated, in 1961. He completed his Master of Arts degree in English at the University of Missouri at Columbia in 1962, after which he taught at Tougaloo College in Mississippi. In 1964 Rowell began pursuing a Ph.D. in English at Ohio State University, which he completed in 1972 after teaching at Mississippi Valley State College in Itta Bena, Mississippi and Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he worked until 1977. In 1976 just before leaving Southern ...